The storyboard from Disney Studios to eLearning content design

Talking about eLearning, once you have analysed training needs, defined learning objectives and designed the educational plan, the following step in instructional design is prototyping, which takes the shape of a storyboard

Which elements is it made up of and how useful is it in building the final lesson? Keep reading to find out. 



The first time you hear about a “story board” is in Walt Disney studios in 1930. It was necessary to have an overview of the sequence of frames that compose the animated film: therefore, single drawings were hung up on the wall. 

Very soon, storyboard became an independent word and it started to indicate all the frames of a film, not only animated. The use of storyboard spread to the motion-picture industry, as a tool to pre-visualise the scene and give practical indications to the director and editor

In cinematography, in fact, a tool like the storyboard can have two main benefits: allow to build a clear and shared plan, and more importantly to save a lot of money when the real production starts, since the margin of error will be reduced and less interventions will be required. 



The same criteria of management and affordability led to the introduction of the storyboard in instructional design of eLearning content. If you think of this kind of content as a movie, a sequence of multimedia elements with specific features that come in succession with a specific order, being able to pre-visualise the final result seems to be a silver bullet.  

When talking about eLearning, however, this content meets training objectives, and therefore requires to use those training strategies planned in the design phase. For this reason, we can say with no mistakes that a storyboarder of eLearning content is in fact an instructional designer, even if he is only in charge of one step the whole process



How does it works the storyboarder job in practice? Firstly, it is necessary to underline how this figure, as everyone else involved in eLearning content design, does not work alone, but need to take into account interests and needs of all the other actors in the process.

On one hand, the client who commissions the courses has economic interests and often bears the knowledge topic of the material: he can be in this case the Subject Matter Expert, as well as the buyer. On the other hand, eLearning artists, both graphic designers and developers, need to receive clear instructions to create the lesson as it was designed. 



Since it has to be read and understood by non-experts, it is important for the storyboard to have a simple structure, complete with all the elements that will compose the single frames of the eLearning lesson

The first and fundamental element is the title, namely something that allow to quickly identify the frame content, together with the frame number, to make its place in the sequence clear to everyone. 

Constituent of the storyboard are then audio and video elements: the storyboard will contain a sketch or an picture (with or without text) that will be helpful to pre-visualise what will be seen on the screen, together with indications regarding the soundtrack music or script.

Last but not least, a storyboard must contain the instructions for eLearning artists that will work in production: information about how and when every element needs to be used, together with indications about elements synchronisation (e.g. “Written text must appear when the narrative voice says …”). 


Creating and then reviewing the storyboard is the last and crucial step of instructional design before moving to eLearning content production. It is clear why the professional in charge of this should be able to use all the training techniques described in the instructional plan, in order to produce effective materials. Do you want to know more about these strategies? Read our next articles. 




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